Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

When I think back to training for my first Ironman, there’s one word that always pops up: uncertainty.  It’s just such a great unknown that there’s no way to really assure yourself you’re going to finish.  And yes, while I floated in Lake Monona that cool Fall morning waiting for the Ironman Wisconsin cannon there was a lot of doubt.

I mean, how can you know?  I never came close to completing 140.6 miles in one day of training.

But there were signs along the way.  Doing an Ironman 70.3 in Muncie definitely gave me a glimmer of hope.  Even still, that was only HALF of the distance.

Then, shortly after that 70.3 I rode my first Century Ride to the tune of 120 miles on the challenging terrain of Natchez Trace in Nashville.  It was also raining much of that day, and while I was absolutely fried, I began to “see” the possibilities in my mind.

And I think that’s the key.  Something has to click.

Going into that first Ironman, my furthest run of my life was only 14 miles, but for some reason I instinctively knew that I could slog my way through the marathon.  Especially if my legs were strong from riding.

I was still building base in every discipline, but spent a ton of hours on spin bikes and the trainer.  Ultimately, I believe it was the purposeful 1.5 – 2 hour trainer rides that made the difference for me.  The hard crunching big gears and the sweat dripping high cadence rides not only produced a strong bike at Wisconsin, but a solid run despite never coming close to a marathon beforehand.

I feel like the marathon looms in everyone’s head, but the true anxiety of Ironman is in the swim and bike.  To me, that is the exact reason the swim and bike should be the first two priorities, especially for age groupers doing their first Ironman.

That’s exactly what we talk about with fellow age grouper, Blaik, who was the first guest on our Crushing Iron podcast (embedded below).

Blaik was training for Ironman Lake Placid (his first) and putting much of his faith in Coach Robbie, who didn’t seem to be prescribing enough running.  Blaik isn’t a huge fan of running, but was still a little unsure why his training was so bike heavy with very few long runs.

As it turned out, Blaik ended up negative splitting his marathon at Lake Placid, and while it wasn’t his best time, he felt like it was his best marathon performance to date.

On this podcast Blaik walks us through how he responded to a full year off due to injury and turned up his swim and bike on the way to his first Ironman finish in Lake Placid.

Here are just a few of the things we talk about:

  • Breaking your bike into two in one day
  • Cycling workouts that are best for your run
  • The best way to attack your trainer workouts
  • The great cadence debate – high rpm or low rpm?
  • From Injury to a negative split run at Ironman Lake Placid.
  • How to “use” your 70.3 effectively when 140.6 is next
  • Is your long weekend run overrated?
  • Finding that breakout moment to give you confidence.
  • Single leg drills

Simplify Training for a Simpler Life

Simplify Training for a Simpler Life

How does simplifying our triathlon training help our lives?  That’s the question that immediately popped into my head after watching the documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix the other night.

Minimalism goes deep into commercialism, along with how decluttering your life genuinely helps you be happier and healthier.  One woman even claimed paring down her belongings was a major reason for her MS going into remission.

I’ve long been fascinated by legendary people like Einstein and Steve Jobs who more or less wore the same thing every day to take that decision process out of their lives.  But fascination doesn’t always translate into reality for me, even when it totally makes sense.

So, how does this concept relate to an ongoing barrage of triathlon articles on the internet, hundreds of different coaching philosophies, and a general workout/life balance?  Will simplifying how we look at training make us better performers?

Even though I like to think of myself as a student of simplicity in my training, I continually over-think it.  I look for the latest “hack” or quick fix then wonder why I can’t find consistency in training or my life.

Today’s podcast goes into that dilemma, plus:

– Decluttering your workout routine
– Running with your dog, spouse, friends more often
– Simplifying your diet for more consistent results
– Getting faster by going slower
– How cleaning your environment reduces stress
– All time favorite personal moments in triathlon (they’re not the races)
– The 80/20 rule for successful training
– 3 Keys to life according to Adam Robinson from the Tim Ferris podcast.

The Holidays and Rest

The Holidays and Rest

Two weeks ago I got a head and chest cold and have been battling it ever since. It’s been a tough pill to swallow because I wanted to keep my swim, bike, run routine tuned up, and hit the new year with a solid base.  But I’ve been worn down and bummed out.

The other day I stumbled onto this article, and it gave me hope.  And let’s face it, what’s more powerful than hope?

It’s a piece by the Urban Monk that talks about the seasons being a conversion of yin and yang. As the Winter Solstice begins, Yin energy is at its peak but will soon be replaced by Yang energy which we should should ride with new projects and a return to workouts.

Sometimes this stuff is a little hard to explain, but essentially they’re saying not only should we be resting at this time, it is essential if we want to attack the next wave.  From the article:

“So why rest? Here’s the rub. Winter is for hibernation. It is a time to be introspective and to gather all of our Qi so we can recover from the previous season…so we can have the energy and wherewithal to consciously participate in life through the next season and fulfill our heart’s desires. So where’s the rub? Look around you. People spend the tail end of the year getting drunk with coworkers in ridiculous red sweaters and frantically racing through shopping malls looking for plastic things made in China that promise to make our loved ones happy. Nobody actually rests. Any wonder why most Americans are sleep walking through their lives?”

I’ve always had a little trouble with holidays because they seem to hit right when I want to be crushing all my dreams, but in reality they are a great “forced” rest and recovery time.  And holidays should be experienced without guilt.

Guilt is a powerful motivator but, like anything else, too much can derail the best of plans.  So much of living right is about living free.  Harboring workout-guilt can be poison.

With all the crazy-over-hyped “workout motivators” in this world it’s easy to get sucked into the 24-7 “crush it mentality” but sometimes is more important to crush a nap.  And that’s exactly what I plan to do now.

Coach Robbie and I would like to thank everyone who’s listening to the podcast.  It’s really gaining steam and we appreciate all the feedback.  Please help us spread the word by sharing and from everyone at Crushing Iron, have a Merry Christmas.  Be back with you soon.

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Triathlon is a process.  We start with blind exuberance then evolve.

There’ve been many times when I’ve reflected and cringed.  I used to “say” I was doing it to become a better person, and that’s somewhat true, but not in the beginning.  I was doing it for my ego.

I wanted to feel a new excitement in my life . . . to feel relevant again.

It was a re-kindling of an earlier life in sports.  I was moving, thrashing, and looking in the eyes of my competition.  It fueled me like nothing had in years.  And I think that’s natural.

But, it was just the beginning.  After several months, and certainly after my first Ironman, the thrill wore off.  I was staring at emptiness in the mirror.  What now?

Well, “what now” was another Ironman that I felt obligated to do a year later.  A lot of it had to do with the fact that I had a blog and created a monster I didn’t want to tame.  The other reason was because I thought triathlon was the key to reviving my life.

Right before that second race I quit my corporate job of 14 years.  I was finally free to pursue the life I wanted and triathlon was right at the center.  And of course that was the problem.

Triathlon isn’t my life, but it’s definitely a vehicle for getting me to where I want to go.  That’s the challenge, and today I had a great discussion about that topic with my coach.

It’s all in the new podcast embedded below.  It’s a very open and honest discussion, which reminds me of something that would make my good friend Dr. Oz proud.  (You can read the semi-hilarious story behind this Dr. Oz interview here, and read Dr. Oz’s response to my post here.)

Below is the podcast where Coach Robbie and I talk about how we started, how we’ve evolved, and how we believe triathlon will fit into our lives in the future.

The Good: Friends, family, Fitness.
The Bad:  Ego, Arrogance, Excess.
The Ugly:  Regret, lies, and suffering.

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

How To Not Suck At Swimming

How To Not Suck At Swimming

Like many triathletes I could barely conquer two lengths of the pool when I started swimming. That was 2012 and I was 49 years old.

My first Olympic (1500 meter swim) was in September of that year where I swam 42 minutes (2:48/100) in a wave-start river-swim.  Shortly after that race I connected with Coach Robbie and followed his swimming strategies for the 5 months leading up to my second Olympic, Rev3 Knoxville in May.  It was a very similar wave-start river-swim and I clocked a 26:35 (1:46/100).

Later that year I did my first Ironman at Wisconsin with Robbie as my coach.  It was a mass start, heavily congested, and the water was rough.  I swam a 1:20.

There are no short cuts when it comes to swimming, but there are definitely “long-cuts” like wasted time and effort.  I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way, but have come to love swimming and nothing drives the quest to get better like seeing progress.

I think a lot of times people underestimate the value of the swim because it’s a short percentage of the overall time, but being a strong swimmer and not having anxiety at the start of the race huge advantage.

Coach Robbie and I just recorded a detailed podcast on swimming where he goes over 8 strategies to make you stronger, faster, and more efficient in the water.  The podcast is embedded below, and as always please subscribe, rate, and share.

These are the topics we cover:

1.  Why drills are a waste of time.
2.  Why building swim fitness should be powerful and purposeful.
3.  The bigger your mesh bag, the slower you are committed to being.
4.  The correct and most effective way to use paddles.
5.  Why pool swimming and open water swimming are two different sports.
6.  What an expensive wetsuit really does for your swim.
7.  The power of the Pull Buoy.
8.  The tools you need and the tools you don’t need.

We also talk about why Coach Robbie thinks IRONMAN should change the swim cut off from 2:20 to 1:40. He also gives two excellent (and customizable) workouts you can start using now to be a better swimmer next season.

HOW TO NOT SUCK AT SWIMMING – 8 Strategies For Being Strong In Open Water

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Ironman Should Move The World Championship

I’m about as old-school as they come, and have spent most of my triathlon career dreaming bout racing in Hawaii, but a conversation with my coach on the latest Crushing Iron podcast just changed my mind on the World Championship.  Is it time Ironman moved KONA off the Island?

At first I thought it was preposterous, but the more I listened, the more it made sense.  Not only could it be a huge financial win for Ironman, but so many more people could actually experience it, both as a racer, and spectator.

One of the points is obviously the expense of going to Hawaii for a week.  It limits family members and friends that can support you, plus it likely forces some qualifiers to turn down the slot.

The size of the island comes into play as well.  It would make it very difficult to have a separate woman’s and men’s race on different days, which Ironman is now doing for the 70.3 Championships.

There is also the question of: Does Kona really decide who is the best, or is it simply who is best in heat and wind?  Moving to different climates with more challenging terrain would open the door for different triathletes and give a better overall sense for who are the best racers in the world.

I’m personally a huge fan of Ironman Wisconsin and thinking about Madison hosting a World Championship sounds incredible.  The crowd support is already off the charts and the thought of how electric that city would be for an event of that magnitude gives me chills.

We discuss this starting the 25 minute mark of the Crushing Iron podcast, but also talk about a lot of other stuff regarding the broadcast.  The men’s battle between Frodeno and Kienle, Ryf vs. Rinny.  We also talk about how the broadcast, and specifically women are making this sport so popular.  We talk about the human interest stories, the advertising, and the 83 year old who is the oldest man to finish.

Please give us a rating on iTunes, and as always, follow Crushing Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.



Crushing Iron: FRIDAY FIVE | 12-9-16

Crushing Iron: FRIDAY FIVE | 12-9-16

Here is your first Crushing Iron FRIDAY FIVE.  Each week we will dig up enlightening reads and training strategies for Swim, Bike, Run, a Wild Card and Bonus.  We’ll also embed a motivational video.  Hopefully this helps you get through some of these long Winter training weekends.

SWIM – How To Nail Your Swim

The swim rarely gets the credit it deserves in triathlon, but it is by far the place people house the most anxiety.  I’ve been known to hold onto a few kayaks in my day, but over time that can be “cured.”  This article from Purple Patch Fitness outlines some good stuff so you can “Nail Your Swim.”

BIKE – Understanding 3 Phases of Cycling Training

So many people I know get on a trainer with their headphones and just crank out the hours.  But, like everything else in triathlon, cycling workouts should have a purpose.  Here’s a good article from Trainer Road that looks at 3 phases of cycling work, what they mean, and how you should attack them.

From the article:

Like a puzzle, there are three training phases that fit together to illustrate an image of your fitness over the entire training season. Whether you have a goal event in mind, or you’d just like to become a faster cyclist, your training plan will apply the right type of training stress at the right time to make sure you can achieve both.

RUN – The Science Of Jogging

We talked about the coaching method of Ernst Van Aaken on a recent podcast (Running Slow To Get Fast) and it is changing how I go about my runs.  Not only that, I’m really excited about running again.   Here’s a link to the article on “Science of Running.”

Ernst Van Aaken: The Pure Endurance Method

WILD CARD – Why is Kona So Tough?

In some way or another, most triathletes probably dream of Kona, and I’m no exception.  I’ve also been fascinated by the conditions and why everyone I know seems to go there and struggle.  Here’s a good story from Alan Couzens that explains exactly why racing Kona is so difficult.

From the article:

“Kona really is an incredibly tough environment to race 140.6 miles in. From the high temperatures that reflect from the lava rock to the wind that sweeps relentlessly across the barren landscape to, perhaps the toughest element of all – the saturating humidity of the place . . .”

BONUS – Free Coaching Consultation

Coach Robbie is offering a free consultation ($175 value) to one Crushing Iron fan.  To learn how to qualify, listen to our podcast 09-Break Through The Kona Ceiling.  Oh, hell, actually, just leave us a review on iTunes and we’ll randomly pick one of you.

Email us: CrushingIron@gmail.com
Follow on Twitter and Facebook.
Crushing Iron Podcasts are now on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.  They are also under the “podcast tab” at CrushingIron.com.

Happy Training.

Video of the Week:   Ironman Chattanooga 2015

Breaking Through The “Ironman Ceiling”

Honestly, I probably don’t listen to my coach as much as I should.  Since the beginning I’ve always had self-concocted approaches to training, most of which center on finding the best short cut.  But after doing 9 podcasts with Coach Robbie, I think reality is starting to sink in.

My first Ironman was in 2013 at Wisconsin and was roughly 18 months after I started running for the first time in my life.  I raced as a 50-year-old that year and, while I didn’t tell anyone, I secretly thought I would pull a rabbit out of my hat and qualify for Kona.  Wrong.

I did pretty well and wound up around 30th in my age group of 200, but that is exactly where I have remained for the last 3 Ironman attempts.  I can’t break that Ironman Ceiling (or wall as displayed in this graphic).

Four years later, I’m starting to get the picture.

In reality, I probably trained the hardest for my first Ironman.  It was all about building a base and that’s exactly what I did.  In the years since then, I’ve started my base-building-phase way too late and put in far less mileage.

I’ve also put in a ton of “in the middle” type pace efforts which are neither slow nor fast.  Most of my runs for example are targeted to be around 8:30’s because I thought if I could make that feel easy, I could do it in the race.  Wrong.

So, what about being in solid shape before you start building your base and actually taking advantage of that base with focused training to get to the next level?  There’s a concept.

My goal this year is to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.  I hope to do so in May on the same course in Chattanooga.  Typically I’d wait for my 8-10 week wake-up-call, then go down and hope it comes together.  Not this time.

It’s early December and my entire focus is on building up to base training so I can put in some heavy chassis work starting in January.  The question is, how?

On today’s podcast, Coach made it simple.  He said, “Just do something every day.  It can be in a swim, bike, run rotation, with some strength training.  Take a day off if you need it, but also start adding two-a-days when you feel up to it.”

I do think a lot of time we get caught up in the numbers but in reality, it’s about being in position to build yourself to the next level.  And that probably never stops if you want to reach a place you’ve been talking about but can’t seem to get there.

We go into that a lot deeper in this podcast.  You’ll also find out:

– How To Win A Free Coaching Consultation
– How To Prep Your Body To Start The Season
– If Your Base Training Has Plateaued
– How to break through 15+ Slots In Your Race
– What it really takes to make an Ironman Podium
– To Prepare Your Body For the Next Phase
– If you’re lost in the numbers
– To Break Race Prep Into Blocks

  • Subscribe, rate, review on iTunes (stitcher and google play)
  • Robbie’s Consultation
  • Friday Five
  • Email us: CrushingIron@gmail.com
Running Slow To Get Faster

Running Slow To Get Faster

For the longest time I thought running my perfect Ironman marathon came down to one theory: If I could learn to make my ideal goal pace (around 8:30) seem easy in training, I could hold it during the race.

It made total sense to me.  I already knew I could hold a 10 minute race pace but it was very difficult to stay that slow in training for extended periods.  It was hard to stay that slow?

I’ve always been sort of a quick-fix-guy and being patient in training or a race is difficult.  But the more I learn about triathlon, the more I realize building base (or chassis as Coach Robbie often says) is the key to real growth in our sport.

It’s easy to think that means beating up our legs and training hard, but have we thought about building base on a cellular level?

Most people (especially me) don’t want to hear it, but getting better at Ironman can be . . . boring.  It’s less like a thunderstorm and more like a steady rain dripping deep into your roots, or in this case, oxygen seeping into your cells.

The reality of boring is that it can actually be more enjoyable because it doesn’t hurt as much. I’ve spent a lifetime looking for the short cut, but putting in the work is always the best, and less frustrating solution.

So many of us spend our training days excited to post the results on social media, but could that be ruining our race?  Ironman success on the marathon is a slow burn and building the perfect running machine should be the goal.

These techniques just make sense and intrigue me with their simplicity.

Have you ever thought that it might make more sense to break your 10 mile run into two five milers?  How about running three separate times during the day to be fresh by giving your body a chance to stay recovered?

On this podcast we dive deep into why running slower might be the key to building your distance running.  We also cover speed work, why it should be limited, and the best way to approach it.

The topic was stimulated by an article in “The Science of Running” about theory of Ernst Van Aaken.  Here’s the article link.  Below is our 8th Podcast:  Running Slow To Get Faster.



Three Off-Season Triathlon Training Myths

Coach Robbie and I recently recorded a podcast on off-season training myths.  Here’s a taste of the discussion in outline form.

Be sure to subscribe to the Crushing Iron podcast on iTunes.  


 1 .  You Need to Do an Off-Season Marathon 

•  Marathon training during Ironman training is a surefire way to ignore swim and bike fitness.
•  A marathon is harder on your body than a 70.3 and will cause more downtime for recovery.
•  Exception:  If you do a 2016 late summer, early, or late Fall Ironman, you can carry over the fitness to your marathon.

2.  You Should Do Drills And Kicking In Every Workout

•  Most triathletes have bad ankle flexibility and/or kick from the knees which makes kicking a waste of time and energy.
•  Why spend 10-15 percent of your time reinforcing bad habits when conditioning and arm fitness isn’t there?
•  Most triathletes simply aren’t strong enough to maintain good form.

3.  You Should Cycle With Watt-Crushing Intensity

•  Take a polarized approach.  80% of training should be at level one/level two zone.  The other 20% on high intensity.
•  Find ways to keep riding enjoyable instead of over-trained and fatigued.
•  Think recovery for next workout AND long-term versus just this season.

Here’s the full podcast, which discusses everything above in more detail, plus simplifying swim workouts and post-Ironman Blues.  If you have topics or questions, email us at CrushingIron@gmail.com.